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The Wow Factor: Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World

If you’ve been laid off, or want to ensure you won’t be, if you just graduated and can’t land your first job, or if you want to position yourself for promotion—you need to have that extra wow factor.

Consequently, here is one new habit, one piece of vital information, and one thing you can do today to wow tomorrow.

One Habit to Practice: Actively Create Camaraderie
While it may seem a bit pedantic, it’s often helpful to think through three potential topics for small talk prior to your arrival at a meeting, a lunch, or a job interview. In my experience it’s best to choose from a fairly broad range of possibilities: say, local sports, current movies, and—depending on the crowd—nearby restaurants or attractions that you have researched. What this does is smooth over transitional moments such as waiting for the last meeting participant to arrive, for the waiter to bring your menus, or for the elevator when you’re ready to leave—all of which can be awkward if silent, or potentially deal-breaking if the topic you choose at random lands badly with your listeners.

One Piece of Information to Know: The Art of Interrupting

Most of us have a few tactics for what to do when we’re interrupted. We’re less confident, however, when it comes to interrupting others—though this can be necessary if you’re running a meeting that’s gone off track, or are overseeing a team that’s gotten into a wrangle. Given this, here are a few pointers:

The difficulty begins when many of us interject, “May I interrupt you?” The trouble with this particular choice is that it doesn’t carry the necessary heft to stop the person in their tracks. Consequently, I’d ask you to begin by saying, “I’m going to interrupt you,” a choice which ensures your control of the remainder of the conversation.

After that, you might go on to say, “This sounds like an important idea, but I don’t know that everyone here needs to be in on the discussion—can you and I set another time to discuss it?” Or, “I don’t know that that level of detail is quite required here, but maybe you can follow up with Jane tomorrow?” (Throughout, your physicality and tone are going to matter a lot: my request is that you sound both firm and encouraging.)

One Action Step to Take: Bypass Bureaucracy
We all know the frustration of listening to a pre-recorded voice telling us to “Press or say one for sales; press or say two for technical support …” Similarly, we’ve all had the experience of being told, “No, I’m afraid he’s not available this week. May I take another message?”

Here how to bypass this bureaucracy: if you are dealing with an automated system, regardless of the situation, the best choice to make if you want to speak to a human being is to press the button that mentions sales as I guarantee they will have staffed the section that’s in charge of taking your money. Once you have a person on the phone, introduce yourself and ask him or her their name. Then explain the situation you’re trying to resolve and ask how they would suggest you move forward. When they say you need to call another number, request both that they perform the transfer and that they stay on the line until there is an actual third person on the phone.

If you are trying to resolve a situation via the web, and have sent emails to their suggested customer service mailbox to no avail, check around on the site for the contact information for their public relations or press office. At this point, I don’t recommend sending them an email, as that’s too easy to ignore, but giving them a call. Again, I guarantee this is one area of the company that will be staffed with living, breathing people, as maintaining their public image is likely a priority. Once you have someone on the phone, the same procedures apply: introduce yourself, get his or her name, explain your situation and ask how best to proceed.

So whether you’re starting out, starting over—or starting to think you’re ready for a bigger piece of the pie—I guarantee implementing these three tools will help ensure your wow factor.

Originally published on FrancesColeJones

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